Living with OCD during a global pandemic by Impulse Therapy

(image: Pinterest)

Managing OCD without the stress of a global pandemic is challenging enough. COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges for many OCD sufferers, forcing people to be restricted to their homes, encouraging obsessive behaviours like handwashing and limiting access to in-person therapy. 

In this article, we’re going to break down the challenges OCD sufferers face in the times of COVID, along with how to support loved ones and how to access support. 

What are the new challenges for OCD sufferers?

People with OCD typically have behaviours that fall into the following categories:

  • Checking: Repeatedly checking tasks that have already been done, such as locking a door or turning off the tap. Checking behaviours can also include believing you have a medical illness and repeatedly getting medical exams or visiting the doctor. 
  • Contamination: A compulsion to repeatedly clean yourself and the surrounding areas. Being in a dirty environment can cause feelings of fear or anxiety. 
  • Symmetry and Ordering: The need for things to be in order and/or symmetrical. Behaviours related to symmetry and ordering can be triggered if things are not organised. Some people with OCD may experience hoarding behaviours which also fall into this category. 
  • Ruminations and Intrusive Thoughts: These are common for people with OCD. Intrusive thoughts experienced by OCD sufferers can sometimes be disturbing and violent, directed towards themselves or loved ones.

New behaviours and triggers are being experienced by OCD sufferers in all of the above categories since COVID-19. 

New Checking Behaviours

With OCD sufferers being confined to their homes, they may be experiencing more frequent checking triggers, repeatedly turning off lights before bed, locking doors, even repeatedly checking the news for updates. People with OCD checking behaviours may also convince themselves they have COVID-19, with a desire to repeatedly get tested while also experiencing paralysing anxiety around leaving the house through fear of infecting others.

New Contamination Behaviours

As you can imagine, experiencing contamination behaviours and triggers as an OCD sufferer during a global pandemic is a complete nightmare. 

OCD sufferers who experience contamination triggers likely already experience anxiety soothing behaviours such as repeatedly washing hands, cleaning themselves and their surroundings. COVID-19 will only be worsening these triggers and behaviours for OCD sufferers. 

With more emphasis being placed on how we wash our hands, the frequency of handwashing and using hand sanitiser, OCD contamination sufferers will likely be triggered whenever they are reminded of COVID-19 to do these behaviours compulsively. 

New Symmetry and Ordering behaviours

Spending more time at home in lockdown and isolation may be triggering symmetry and ordering behaviours for some OCD sufferers. They are constantly surrounded by their triggers, resulting in more frequent behaviour indulgences to ease anxiety. Frequent changes in COVID regulations could become a new trigger for OCD sufferers with symmetry and ordering behaviours. 

During lockdown, a lot of people have been inspired to ‘Marie Kondo’ their homes, organising and discarding items that no longer ‘bring joy’. Many OCD sufferers will be organising and reorganising their homes compulsively to ease anxiety. 

New Ruminations and Intrusive Thoughts

During a global pandemic, OCD sufferers could start to have intrusive thoughts about loved ones being infected with COVID-19. These thoughts can quickly spiral, with sufferers believing they are the cause of their loved one being infected, even if they are not showing symptoms or have tested negative.

People with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, meaning they can have COVID and be infectious without showing any symptoms. Due to this fact, many people with OCD will convince themselves that they have COVID and are asymptomatic, causing them to isolate themselves possibly unnecessarily. 

How to support loved ones during these challenging times

As unfortunate and uncomfortable as it is, one of the best treatments for OCD is exposure and response prevention, a type of therapy that exposes the patient to the situations that make them anxious as a way of normalising these moments and learning ways to cope with the anxiety without resorting to the usual anxiety soothing behaviours. 

For the OCD sufferer, this means facing a lot of discomfort throughout treatment. If you’re living with an OCD sufferer who is struggling with frequently being triggered, possibly even by things you are doing, it may be tempting to stop what you’re doing that is triggering your loved one. However, it could be more beneficial long-term to behave normally, continuing whatever action you are doing that may be triggering, as a way of exposing your loved one to their trigger to normalise it. If you live with someone with OCD and are triggering them and don’t know how to behave around them, it could be worth speaking with a therapist to get some advice. 

Talking things through can always be helpful for anyone suffering from any mental health issue. If you can talk to your loved one about their OCD struggles in a patient, calm and empathetic way, this is a great way to support. 

How to access support as an OCD sufferer

Access to in-person therapy is currently limited worldwide due to COVID. If you’re looking for a way of accessing support, either for yourself or a loved one, there are online options. 

Online therapy is becoming more and more popular, with users enjoying the ease and accessibility without having to leave their homes.

The best form of treatment for OCD is therapy treatment using CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention). This type of treatment can be done in-person or online. 

Alongside therapy, there are many other tools that someone suffering from OCD can use to reduce and manage symptoms, such as worksheets, meditation, journaling and more. Each OCD sufferer is individual and has a unique experience. One person with OCD may struggle with contamination behaviours, while another could only ever experience ruminations. This is why everyone’s treatment plan will look a little different. 

When speaking with a loved one about getting help, remember to approach the conversation with patience and empathy. Seeking help for OCD is tough, and the person struggling may need time to come around and ask for the help they need. Discuss options with them in an open-minded way without any expectations. 

This blog was written by Impulse Therapy

5 Ways you can reduce Anxiety in Every Day Life: Guest blog by Samantha Higgins

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(image: Picuki.com)

Reducing anxiety at the moment in our every day lives is so important.

Having anxiety is something that many people have challenges with. It is estimated that about 1 in 5 adults have an anxiety disorder and that more than that will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.

The symptoms of anxiety include feeling restless or on edge, being easily irritated, difficulty controlling feelings of worry and having difficulty sleeping, amongst others. 

If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, there are many things you can do to help reduce and manage those feelings. 

 

1. Look at Lifestyle Choices

A number of different lifestyle behaviours could contribute to your anxiety. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating junk food will all play a big role in how you feel. For example, excessive drinking or the use of drugs can cause a multitude of health problems including liver and kidney damage. It also causes mental illness such as drug and alcohol addictions. You may need further support from a psychiatrist or rehab unit if you are struggling with addiction or mental illness.

On the opposite side, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods are proven to boost your mood, increase the chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and improve your overall physical health. 

If you want to manage anxiety, consider looking at your current lifestyle choices and if there is anything you have the power to change. Be honest in your assessment but know you have options for assistance.  Making a big lifestyle change is hard but if there is something you know is causing your mental health and anxiety to worsen, it is a good idea to remove that from your life if possible. 

 

2. Talk to Your Family and Friends

Even if you think your family and friends would not understand, you might end up getting some of your most valuable support from them. You should not ever feel you have to hide any of your mental health concerns from them, unless you know that they would react badly.

Try to avoid shutting people out, being secretive about your mental illness or becoming defensive when people ask. 

True friends will listen and care. There is still a stigma to mental illness but it is important to find someone you trust.

 

 3. Set Boundaries

If necessary you can set boundaries for yourself. This could mean letting people know there are certain activities you don’t participate in. It could also mean a limit on how much time you spend with friends and family, in order to practise self care and recuperate. 

Many people who struggle with anxiety disorders find that setting up a schedule for themselves that they are consistent in keeping can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety. It helps them to feel more in control and gives them a structure that feels secure.

Setting boundaries is a way for you to have control over your situation and environment, although these should not be too rigid. There are certain things that can’t be controlled that can increase anxiety. 

 

4. Let Go of Things You Can’t Control

If something is out of your control that is causing your anxiety there are ways that you can cope with these feelings.  One suggestion is to write down how you are feeling to help let those emotions go. The BACP tells us that, “It can help to express this anxiety in a way that you can control. That could be writing down what you feel, or keeping a journal.”

You can also try making a list of things you are grateful for, or use breathing and relaxation techniques. 

If you are still struggling to cope with things out of your control seek help from a professional. 

 

5. Get Professional Help

You could turn to all types of mental health professionals to get help, including GPs (physicians), psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists. You may be referred for talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness or EMDR therapy for trauma.  They may also recommend medication for you too.

In the UK, you would go via your NHS GP who can refer you on to see a psychiatrist or to IAPT for counselling.  Also check out the Counselling Directory website.

When searching for a good therapist in the USA, Karen Whitehead, who does counseling in Alpharetta, GA tells us that, “Psychologists (PsyD), Licensed Social Workers (LMSW/LCSW), Licensed Professional Counsellors (LPC), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) can all evaluate and treat mental illness, provide talk therapy, support and feedback, and teach coping strategies such as mindfulness.”

Your counsellor will be able to help you better assess your situation and get to the core of your anxieties. Even if you already know why you get anxious, you can benefit from learning coping skills.

Your counsellor can indeed equip you with tools adapted for your specific needs. You will have feedback on what is and what is not working. You can learn to live with, manage and in many cases, recover from anxiety.

 

You Are Not Alone

Do not ever think you are alone when it comes to your anxiety. Try not to beat yourself up if setbacks occur or you have a bad day.

Talk with your therapist about ways that you can help to further reduce your anxiety. They will be able to help you.

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Samantha Higgins.

How to deal with a Breakup when you have OCD: Guest blog by Brooke Chaplan

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Your OCD symptoms may be triggered by situations that feel out of your control, and breakups can easily throw your life into a tailspin. On top of dealing with the hurt that comes with ending a relationship, you may also be dealing with serious anxiety about what your future holds. This is especially true if you find yourself blaming yourself for your flaws and inadequacies and holding yourself solely responsible for the breakup. These tips will help you begin to heal by dealing with your breakup in healthy ways that allow you to see this as an opportunity for growth.

Stick to Your Wellness Plan

The first thing that you need to do is practice self-care. Although your heart may be too broken to want to get out of bed, it is important to follow your normal daily routine. Exercise helps to release endorphins that make your symptoms more manageable. Eating a healthy diet also helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and OCD. Following your wellness plan sends signals to your brain that you will overcome this temporary life event. It’s important to know that while exercise and self-care will not cure either your mental illness or your broken heart, it will strengthen your body and give you the tools you need to handle the strain.

Seek Advice About the Future

When you have OCD, the realization that you have no idea of what will happen next can make your symptoms worse. Seeking relationship advice that addresses your current circumstances along with how they influence your future gives you a sense of control. Talk to a therapist, counselor, spiritual guide, religious leader, or family member. This advice can then be used to begin putting together a new life plan that helps you feel confident and mentally strong.

Find Healthy Distractions

Once you know that the future is bright, you can begin finding ways to overcome your pain in the present moment. Explore new hobbies and set goals that help you build for your better future while also avoiding the tendency to obsess over the past. Try taking a class or doing an activity that you’ve always wanted to explore. You’ll feel stronger and more excited about what the future has in store.

Take Note of Your Progress

During your breakup, you can expect to experience some high and low moments. When you feel down, try to recognize how much progress you’ve made. For instance, you might have made a new friend who helps you get through this rough patch. You might have managed to avoid checking your ex’s social media pages. These little signs of progress mean that you are moving forward, and recognizing them helps you see that the breakup truly is a chance to grow. Remember to not beat yourself up over slipping up. It is likely that an emotional moment like this could bring up past compulsions and obsessions you thought you had gotten over. This does not mean you have failed or somehow destroyed your past progress, because progress is not linear.

Your relationship might be over, but you can use this moment as an opportunity for personal growth. When you feel like your OCD symptoms are taking over, reach out to people who care. Soon, you’ll have this whole painful event behind you and be looking at the future with a positive perspective.

If you need further support, speak to your therapist doctor or psychiatrist.

 

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

Royal family launches Shout UK- a Mental health crisis text line: Guest blog

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Be Ur Own Light is supporting the incredible initiative from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Sussex- Shout UK, a new text support line in the UK for people in mental health crisis- anyone who is struggling. They have teamed up with Crisis Text line to reach vulnerable people.

I feel privileged to live in a country where stigma is beginning to fall and where mental health issues are beginning to be understood better. Texting would have helped me as an ill teenager with bipolar!

Shout are looking for volunteers too to man the text lines as crisis counsellors.

Thank you to the Duke and Duchesses for the incredible profile they are giving mental health. #GiveUsAShout

5 Tips for a Mental Health Emergency Plan: Guest blog by Emily Bartels

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(image: http://crmhfoundation.org/self-care/)

 

When it comes to emergency plans, usually we think in a more physical sense, but did you know that mental health emergency plans are important?

Mental health emergencies can be quite stressful, and if you’re in a mental health industry or have any personal concerns about your own health, providing the right help is important.  Here, we will outline important tips to help you create a mental health emergency plan that will suffice.

 

Have a Support system

If you tend to get overwhelmed when an emergency happens, a big way to help reduce the trauma from it is to have a support system. Whoever you are and whereever you work, your own personal triggers and issues are still there. If you’re having issues coping, find a support system- a friend, family member or therapist that can help.

You may want to come up with a plan to help your  responses to situations, especially when disaster strikes. If you do have anxiety and depression, do make sure that you have people that can help around you or reach out for help from a doctor or therapist.

 

Prepare For Emotional Reactions

Another big thing that emergency evacuation plan Melbourne  (in Australia) does point out, is you need to make sure that you have the right idea of what might happen.  You should know when you have chaotic reactions, and what you struggle with when disaster strikes.

Focus on what will help, what might happen when you do suffer from an incident, and make sure to communicate it to others.

Processing information is quite hard in a stressful situation, such as fear, anxiety, depression, or even a panic attack, and you should make sure that, with the group of people you trust or the medical profession, you do speak about what happens. It’s also important to make sure that you properly communicate to others.  While panic attacks and sad emotions do happen, you should know that you probably will be upset about whatever will transpire. But that its OK to feel this way.

 

Be Prepared to communicate

A large part of a mental health plan is to make sure that you communicate your needs. If you need to, make sure that you explain any mental health needs, such as medication you might need, in an emergency, with loved ones.  Its vital to your wellbeing  even when stressful to communicate. Letting others know can help them and you prepare for the worst and take action if needed. You aren’t alone.

 

Keep Contact information on hand

Pharmacies can help you get emergency medication, but making sure that you have the contact information for your provider, any diagnoses, and dosages of medication are important.  Make sure to let some people in your support system know, and also keep those phone numbers on hand in case if the emergency lines are overloaded.

 

Create a Recovery Bag

If you have extra medications, a comfort item, and anything that you can use to help in the case of an emergency or crisis, put it in a small emergency kit, which you can use if you need to attend hospital or appointments.  Remember, emergency kits aren’t just for physical health aspects, but also for mental health.  You need to make sure you’re prepared both physically and mentally for any issues that might transpire so that you’re not suffering.

Mental health during an emergency often isn’t focused on as much as say other aspects of your health. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts don’t always go away, and you need to be prepared for that, and reach out for help so you can recover well.

Creating a plan to try and prevent or reduce this from happening with your medical team will help if a mental health emergency comes about. From there, you can get the help that you need in order to stabilise yourself, look after yourself and recover again.

 

This blog was written by Emily Bartels, freelance writer with an interest in mental health and wellbeing.

Happy Third Blog Anniversary! : On Our Third Birthday by Eleanor

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(image : etsy)

Earlier this week, on the 1st March, Be Ur Own Light turned 3 years old! I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions after leaving a job in 2016 due to acute anxiety and panic ( part of my bipolar) . Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined when I started writing. As many of you know, this blog led to me writing for big media outlets and to my book deal (book hopefully will be out in November) and I am so grateful for the confidence it has given me too- and the chance to connect with people all over the world.

However, this year (as with the past 2), the blog has attracted a horde of talented writers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness. Some have shared their personal stories of hope and recovery, others have given useful tips on health and wellness  and we have covered topics as wide ranging as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addictions to drugs and alcohol. We have talked about pet therapy, writing therapy, mindfulness and yoga, amongst other therapies.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery from mental illnesses like anorexia and bipolar disorder. National campaigns like the Diana Award also got in touch with us to discuss bullying and LGBT issues too and Jami charity asked us to cover their mental health awareness campaign (which I helped set up). Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers March 2018-2019 for your fantastic content:   

Donna at Wildwoman Book Club for Self care

Lynn Crilly- Hope with eating disorders (book)

Cordelia Moor- Living with Quiet BPD for Time to Talk Day

Sarah- On Depression for Time to Talk Day

Peter McDonnell-  Managing anxiety and psychosis for TTD

Cara Lisette- Recovery from anorexia and bipolar disorder for TTD

David Welham- Depression and Recovery/  Being a parent of children taking exams

Rachelle Wilber- Treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

Brandon Christensen- What is mental health stigma?

Charlotte Underwood- Overcoming Adversity/ The Saviour Complex

Ralph Macey- Managing Bipolar in the workplace

Manmohan Singh- Benefits of Yoga

Alex Sabin- Enjoying the Holidays after Addiction

Spela Kranjec- How to Accept Yourself/ My Journey in surviving Anorexia

Jami charity- Mental Health Awareness Shabbat campaign

Brookman- Avoiding a relationship crisis at Christmas

Sarah Cardwell-  Womens health awareness

Anti Bullying Week, the Diana Award and Everyones Talking about Jamie

Allen- Recovery from alcoholism and mental illness

Lizzie Weakley- How to combat your eating disorder

Posy and Posy- Flowers for wellness

N- Poem on depression- Copy of my Mask

Dan Brown at My Therapy- Suicide prevention on social media- World MH Day

Lydia- On complex PTSD and recovery

Ashley Smith- how Physiotherapy helps with stress and anxiety

Amy Hutson- How Writing Therapy helps

Christine H- What family therapy is really like

Meera Watts- How Yoga enhances your lifestyle

Dawn Prime- How can Animal and Pet therapy help

Bill Weiss- Mental Health Stigma and Drug addiction

Dr Nancy Irwin- Signs your loved one is abusing drugs

Eve Crabtree- The MIND diet for Dementia

James Kenneth- Overcoming mental health challenges

Ellie Willis- A guide to mood disorders

AXA PPP- is social media bad for our health?

Lori Longoria- How baths and spas help relaxation

Tomas Sanchez- can alcohol raise stress levels and affect mental health

Dr Janina Scarlet- Therapy quest book

Cloe Matheson- tips to reduce stress

Paul Matthews- fitness and how it helps depression

Katie Rose- How to help anxiety and panic attacks

Anonymous- on sexual abuse

Kayla Clough- coping with post partum depression

Kara Masterson- 4 tips to begin the fight against drug addiction

Michelle Hannan- 5 tips to boost your immune system

Kevin Morley- Satori Mind- Tips to boost mindfulness

Sara Whitehouse at Stadia Sports-How sport can help mental health

Amy Boyington- How holistic medicine helps mental health

 

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2019 brings for the blog!

2018 was a very special year for me and my writing- being published in Metro.co.uk, Glamour, The Telegraph, Happiful magazine, the Jewish News and several other media outlets. I was featured in articles in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Prima, Yahoo News, Prevention magazine and Refinery29 and guest blogged on other mental health blogs too.

This year on the blog I wrote about my life with social anxiety and work anxiety, winter blues and SAD/ depression, I shared my articles about being plus size and a bride and about my recovery from bipolar disorder. Furthermore, I wrote about the Twitter hashtags I started #mydepressionmeans and #myanxietymeans, to help people feel less alone and share their own experiences online.

On the blog I also reviewed the brilliant book ‘Love and Remission‘ by Annie Belasco by Trigger Publishing, about breast cancer and mental health. Triggers mental health books are great and I read so many that I was unable to review due to time constraints including Depression in a Digital Age by Fiona Thomas and books by Paul McGregor and Ruth Fox.

This year we were given the accolade of being a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog by Vuelio and were a shortlisted finalist in the 2018 UK Blog Awards (Health and Social Care category). I was also invited to the Mind Media Awards which was an incredible experience and this year, we have been nominated for Blogger of the Year in the Mental Health Blog Awards.

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.  Blogging makes me happy and I hope it helps so many of you too and you love what we do here.

Heres to a productive, wonderful, fun and exciting year of educating and battling mental health stigma too 🙂

Happy 3rd birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be a special year for us

Love and gratitude,

Eleanor    

xxx

eleanortwit

 

Hope with Eating Disorders (2nd Edition): Book by Lynn Crilly

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Writer of Hope with Eating Disorders : A Self Help Guide is Lynn Crilly, a trained counsellor and also a carer to her daughter who developed Anorexia and OCD at aged 13.

Conventional treatment didn’t help her daughter and so Lynn did all she could to learn about eating disorders and mental illness, in order to help her daughter recover. She trained in NLP techniques and became a counsellor, slowly assisting her daughter back to health.

Lynn has said,

‘I  have experienced and learnt first-hand how hard it is to support a loved-one through to recovery from Anorexia Nervosa and OCD, and the effect living with mental illness can have on not only the sufferer but everyone involved, particularly the rest of the family.

I was keen to go on to give others the benefit and support of my knowledge and experience both personally and as a counsellor. Over the years I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful people and their families, each and every one unique, whilst I have been able to support them through their journeys. I too have learnt from them.’

I found the book very easy to read and incredibly informative. The first edition of Hope with Eating Disorders was published in 2012. Since that time, awareness of eating disorders have grown. Lynns website says about the book,

In this second edition, which maintains Lynn Crilly’s warm, non-judgemental, family-friendly approach, the more recently recognised eating disorders have been included, the range of treatment options – both mainstream and alternative – has been fully reviewed and revised, and the impact of social and technological change has been fully accommodated, with the role of social media for good and ill to the fore. New case histories highlight key issues, and throughout all references to research and stats have been reviewed and updated. Men’s eating disorders are now addressed by contributing author Dr Russell Delderfield. Since originally writing Hope with Eating Disorders, Lynn has experienced seven years of counselling practice and seven years of her own daughter’s recovery from an eating disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, underpinning her realistic insight into what recovery actually is and means.

Hope with Eating Disorders is a practical, supportive guide for anyone helping someone with an eating disorder be they a family member, teacher, sports coach, workplace colleague or friend.

You can find out more about Lynn and buy a copy of her book at www.lynncrilly.com/my-books

 

Suicide Prevention on Social media: Guest post by Dan Brown at MyTherapy for World Mental Health Day

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I recall reading a story last year about two teenage students from a town in Denver, both of whom lost their lives to suicide within two days of one-another.

In both cases, the students had made their intentions known on social media.

Countless similar stories can be found online. In many cases, such as the one above, people did attempt to reach out to those in need. In other cases, online cries for help were ignored or not taken seriously.

Teen Suicide Rates are Rising

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67%.

In London, the figure is rising at an even greater rate, while a similar trend is occurring on the other side of the Atlantic, with the suicide rate of children and teenagers between 10 and 17 years old increasing by 70% in a decade since 2006.

The Role of Social Media in Suicide Prevention

While many believe social media is at least partially responsible for the rising rates of teenage suicides – due to matter such as cyber-bullying – it can be used as an effective tool for suicide prevention. This goes for any user of social media, not just teenagers.

The major platforms themselves are actively engaged in suicide prevention, but much of the onus is on individuals to respond should they encounter a post pertaining to suicide from a friend, family member, or anybody else.

Contacting the Emergency Services

First-and-foremost, you should not hesitate in contacting the emergency services if you believe someone’s life is in imminent danger. Any indications that someone is preparing to take their own life should be treated as a medical emergency. If need-be, contact closer friends or relatives of the person in question as well, to ensure help can arrive as quickly as possible.

In such situations, particularly if the person has made their intentions clear, the danger is obvious.

However, it is not always so easy to spot when a person needs help, or to differentiate between someone simply ‘venting’ after having a bad day and a more serious mental health issue.

The Warning Signs

Spotting the signs that a person may be contemplated suicide based on their social media activity can be difficult, given the absence of body language or tone of voice in many posts, especially those that are purely text rather than photos or videos.

However, there are some warning signs you can look out for.

  • Tone
    While tone of voice by not be present in a lot of social media posts, you will probably be familiar with the tone your friends and family members take on social media. A negative change in tone may be subtle or happen gradually over time, but it should not be overlooked. If you start to notice more posts that strike you as odd or out-of-character, it could be that person’s way of expressing negative emotions.
  • Signs of Anger or Lashing Out
    “Anger turned inward” is how Sigmund Freud described depression, a characterisation that is debated to this day. What seems beyond debate is that anger often coexists with depression, and that it can be outward as well as inward. Therefore, if you see someone reacting angrily or lashing out online, it could suggest they are struggling mentally. Again, this should be particularly alarming if it is out-of-character for that person.
  • Sad Posts
    Of course, sadness is the most obvious emotion to link with depression. When it comes to social media, this could be shown in sharing sad memes and pictures, or posts discrediting their own self-worth. Frequent posts of this nature could be a cry for help and should not be ignored.

 

It is also worth paying attention to the time of day the person is posting, as insomnia is a common symptom of depression. As such, regular posts late at night or in the early hours may be another warning sign.

Reaching Out to Someone You Are Concerned About

If you are concerned about someone’s wellbeing, raising your concerns with them is usually far from easy and must be done sensitively. However, many people struggle to talk about their mental wellbeing, be it through embarrassment, fear of ridicule, or any other reason perpetuated by the stigma surrounding the topic.

If you are the one to raise the issue, it can help break that barrier immediately.

There is also the myth that talking about suicide is a bad idea and could encourage a person to take their own life, which has contributed in making suicide taboo subject. Again, being the one to raise the topic, if appropriate, can help make a person feel more comfortable in discussing their concerns.

This article from Helpguide.org does a superb job of explaining the steps you can take in opening the dialogue.

Contacting Someone Closer to the Person

You do not have to be a close friend or family member to raise your concerns with a person. Given that we are discussing social media, you can even be the other side of the world.

However, you may ultimately decide that you are not the best person to speak directly to the individual you are concerned about.

That, however, does not mean you are unable to help.

Contacting someone closer to them – either physically or emotionally – clearly and considerately explaining why you are concerned, may encourage that person to bring the issue up. Perhaps they too have noticed the signs but were unsure whether to address them. Your message could be the push they need to do so.

You Can Help a Person in Need

It is quite likely that nothing in this article is new or surprising to you. However, many cries for help on social media go ignored. In the most tragic of cases, lives are needlessly lost. So, if you do find yourself in a situation where a friend or loved one is using social media in such a way, just remember: you can be the one to help. You may even save a life.

 

This article was contributed by Dan Brown from MyTherapy (free for iOS and Android).

What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

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(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H:

christine

Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.

 

Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

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(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime.